By Svetlana Kalmykova
The Russian president’s visit to the Middle East is an important political event of last week.
On the 25 and 26 of June, Vladimir Putin visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan and discussed key issues with the leaders of those countries. The discussions concerned the situation in Syria, Iran’s nuclear programme and the settlement of the crisis in the Middle East. Experts point out that the visit had a peacemaking nature.
The Middle East is the planet’s hottest spot today. Syria is on the brink of a civil war, Iran is irritating the world community with its nuclear programme and there seems to be no end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A new aggravation of the situation occurred near Israel’s southern border on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s visit when Hamas militants fired at the Israeli territory and Israel responded with missile attacks against the Gaza Strip.
The Russian president called the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to reconciliation and even acted as an intermediary. The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Vladimir Putin to persuade Palestine to resume talks. In turn, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked Vladimir Putin to help liberate Palestinians kept in Israeli prisons.
Commenting on the results of the talks with the leaders of the two countries, Vladimir Putin said that he did not have an aim to arrange a personal meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas but he was convinced that they could come to an agreement.
On Friday, world information agencies reported that Mahmoud Abbas is planning to have talks with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz on Sunday, the 1st of July. Israel does not either confirm or deny this information. It this meeting does take place it will be a real breakthrough because there have been no peace talks between Israel and Palestine since 2010.
Israel also asked for Russia’s help in another important issue. Israeli President Shimon Peres complained that Iran is openly threatening to erase Israel from the face of the earth and asked the Russian president to prevent Iran from laying its hands on nuclear weapons. Vladimir Putin defended the Iranian people’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but pointed out at the same time that Iran should guarantee non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In any case, the problem should be solved peacefully, by way of talks.
As for Syria, the Russian president said that all neighbouring countries should take part in the settlement of this crisis. The ideal version is for Syrians to come to an agreement between themselves and the neighbouring countries to act as guarantors of this agreement.
Russia is convinced that all problems should be solved peacefully. Vladimir Putin stressed this during the talks with his colleagues, expert Sergey Seriogichev from the Institute of the Middle East at the Russian Academy of Sciences says.
“Russia firmly adheres to its political course in that region which is a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace in the Middle East. We are against abrupt steps like military interference in Syria or supporting forces that deliver weapons and stir up civil war.”
Israeli newspapers call Putin’s visit ‘a peacemaker’s visit’. Mahmoud Abbas called Putin a welcome guest, dear to the hearts of all Palestinians. As a sign of special respect, one of the streets in Bethlehem will bear Putin’s name. Jordan also received Putin with great respect.
Today’s situation in the Middle East fully depends on Moscow’s position, Professor Nikolay Surkov from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations says.
“Russia has two trump cards in the Middle East now. The first one is the right of veto in the UN Security Council. Russia is its permanent member which provides its serious influence. The second advantage is that Russia has contacts with all the countries and forces in the region. Russia cooperates with Damascus, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Amman, Cairo and the Hamas movement as well. Russia is a very convenient intermediary which enjoys respect of all the interested parties.”
Russia is consolidating both its political and cultural influence in the Middle East. Together with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Vladimir Putin took part in unveiling a memorial dedicated to the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany. A Russian cultural centre has opened in Bethlehem, Palestine. A boarding house for Russian pilgrims has opened in Jordan near the place of Jesus Christ’s baptism and the plot of land for the boarding house was a gift to Russia. All this is evidence of Russia’s growing presence on the Holy Land.